What has the referendum done for us? by Angela Caldin
On 23 June 2016, the UK voted by a small majority of 52% to leave the European Union. In the three weeks since this rather unexpected result, the nation has experienced a number of equally unexpected happenings:
- the prime minister, David Cameron, has resigned, leaving to others the task of clearing up the mess he has so cavalierly created; the idea that he might lose the referendum having apparently not occurred to him
- the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, has not resigned though most of his fellow MPs sincerely wish he would after his lacklustre campaign for remain and his perceived lack of leadership qualities; he has been challenged for the leadership by Angela Eagle and Owen Smith
- candidates for the Conservative party leadership and therefore for prime minister have buzzed into view and then dropped like flies: Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Liam Fox, Stephen Crabb and Andrea Leadsom have all given way to Theresa May, home secretary for the last six years, known for her toughness and hard-line beliefs and her low-key support of the remain campaign
- Boris Johnson and Liam Fox have risen phoenix-like from the flames of defeat to become foreign secretary and secretary of state for international trade respectively; Michael Gove appears to have bitten the dust
- there is concern that the top diplomatic job has been given to someone who is renowned throughout the world for his lack of diplomacy
- David Davis has drawn what surely must be the short straw, as he has been made secretary of state for exiting the EU: most of us ordinary mortals only realised after the referendum that it would take about two years to leave the EU and would involve intricate negotiations to get the best ‘deal’
- promises made by the leave campaign on the £350 weekly amount paid to the EU and on the reduction of immigration were found to be false as was their threat that Turkey was on the brink of joining the EU
- neither side, leave or remain, appears to have had any kind of plan about how to go about leaving the EU
- the pound has fallen badly against the dollar and the euro, making imports more expensive as well as journeys abroad
- interest rates are likely to be cut this month or next from 0.5% to 0.25% in an attempt to boost the economy – good news for borrowers but bad news for savers
- there is a pervading atmosphere of uncertainty: house prices are predicted to fall, investment decisions have been put on hold and business confidence has been shaken
- divisions have become apparent across the UK, between countries (England and Wales voted to leave while Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain) between age groups (young people favoured remain while older age groups tended towards leave) between city and country (London and larger cities voted remain while country areas were firmly for leave
- the focus of the leave campaign on the question of immigration has led some people to believe that immigrants, wherever they come from in the world, should now be made to leave; this has resulted in people who may have been here for years or who have been born here being racially abused as they go about their daily lives – this ugly undercurrent, which has been swirling around for years, has now come spurting to the surface
Over the next weeks, months and years, we’ll discover what the long term effects of leaving the EU are. Will we, as many people wish and hope, ‘get our country back’? Or will we lose two of the UK’s four countries, Scotland and Northern Ireland? Will we get back that vaguest of concepts, our sovereignty? Or will we still remain under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights, which is where we are most often overruled and which is completely separate from the EU?
The questions go on and on and, at the moment, most of them don’t have answers. Apart from wanting to turn the clock back, there’s one thing I keep wondering, is it possible that we may not actually leave at all?
Do I slit my throat now . . . it’s all right for you, you’re moving away from the UK. Is New Zealand ready for your cynicism, I ask myself.
I wasn’t really meaning to be cynical Marge, I was just trying to get clear in my own head the many events which had occurred since the referendum and, if possible, make sense of them!